Thursday 3 Dec 2009


Region & Route:
Wales & Western: Western
| Wales & Western

Two bridges over the railway in the Didcot area are being rebuilt this Christmas weekend as part of a £71m project designed to remove up to 50,000 lorries a year from the region’s roads and provide a cheaper, quicker and more practical way of transporting goods around the country.

The £4.5m upgrade of bridges over the railway at Sands Road in South Moreton and nearby Stocks Farm is required to allow bigger 9' 6" or 'high-cube' containers to be transported efficiently by rail from Associated British Ports' (ABP) Port of Southampton across the country, making a valuable contribution to the economy and helping Britain compete better in the global marketplace.

Chris Rayner, Network Rail’s route director for the Great Western route, said: “Rail can provide a cheaper, greener and more practical way of transporting freight compared with road. This project aims to increase the amount of freight transported by rail, which will help reduce carbon emissions and road congestion as well as delivering long-term economic benefits across the country.”

“We have to replace these bridges to achieve the many benefits of transporting freight by rail rather than road.  Where possible we have made the new structures better than the ones we removed. There will be some disruption while we carry out this important work but we can assure motorists, pedestrians and rail users that we aim to keep disruption to an absolute minimum.”

Sands Road bridge in South Moreton will be closed from 14 December 2009 until April 2010. Removal of the existing bridge deck will begin once the last train has passed through the area on Christmas Eve, with engineers working round the clock over Christmas Day and Boxing Day to install the new single-span bridge. The new bridge will be wider with a footpath, making it much safer for pedestrians. Although it will not reopen fully until April, pedestrians and cyclists will be allowed to cross the bridge when it is deemed safe to do so by Network Rail’s contractors on site.

Stocks Farm overbridge, which carries a bridleway across the railway north of Sands Road, is also being replaced with a new single-span bridge. It has been closed since September and will also reopen in April 2010.

Network Rail has kept local residents informed about every aspect of the project with letters, meetings and regular updates posted on notice boards in both North and South Moreton. As a gesture of goodwill, Network Rail has agreed to donate a bench to South Moreton Millennium Garden. In addition, Network Rail recently supplied labour and materials to upgrade the footpath leading to Sadsgroves underpass, which is an alternative means of crossing the railway line while the bridge replacements are carried out.

Rail services will not be affected by the work over Christmas.

Notes to editors

Freight services are indispensable to everyday life.  They deliver food, clothing, electronics and other goods to stock shops and supermarkets, coal to provide electricity to power the nation and aggregates for major industries. The freight industry makes a valuable contribution to the regional and national economy, and the government is investing £350m in projects to achieve the significant economic, efficiency and environmental benefits rail freight offers.

The Southampton to Nuneaton freight upgrade scheme will bring the following benefits: 

Vehicles off the road

It is estimated this scheme will enable the transfer of up to 50,000 container freight journeys a year from the Britain’s roads to the railway.  This will help reduce carbon emissions and ease traffic congestion on the road network. 


Rail is also one of the most environmentally friendly forms of transport.  Road freight generates six times more carbon dioxide than rail freight for each tonne moved, so the greater transfer of freight from road to rail as a result of this scheme will lead to a significant reduction of carbon emissions. 


High cube containers are larger than standard containers, and therefore more items can be transported within them, making them a more efficient means of distributing goods. Rail can be a cheaper, quicker and a more practical way for businesses to transport their goods around the country and beyond. At present high cube containers are too big to be carried on standard height platform wagons on much of the rail network.  Therefore the only way to carry them by rail is on special low wagons.  However, this reduces efficiency and capacity by up to 33%, making rail a less competitive form of transport for freight.  

Economic growth

The upgraded rail freight link will improve the competitiveness and encourage economic growth within the South East region.  This project will also make it easier to import and export goods, helping Britain compete more effectively in the global market.  


The route will take freight trains from Southampton to the West Coast Main Line near Nuneaton, via Winchester, Basingstoke, Didcot, Oxford, Banbury, Leamington Spa and Warwick.

Improvement works are being planned along this route to structures which are not currently large enough for high-cube containers to pass through.  These are scheduled to be carried out over the next two years. 

Funding for this project has been agreed from the Department for Transport (DfT) via a Transport Innovation Fund TIF(P) grant.  Additional funding is being provided by South East England Development Agency (SEEDA), ABP, DP World Southampton, Advantage West Midlands (AWM), European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and the Network Rail Discretionary Fund. The DfT’s Transport Innovation Fund, The Future of Transport" (July 2004) supports the costs of smarter, innovative local transport packages that combine demand management measures *support innovative mechanisms which raise new funds; *support the funding of regional, inter-regional and local schemes that are beneficial to national productivity. 

The current freight container market is seeing a significant growth in the percentage of ‘high cube’ containers. The usage of 9’ 6” containers currently stands at over 40%. This is expected to rise to between 50% and 70% by 2019. 

Network Rail, in partnership with the passenger and freight train operators, has consulted with a range of individuals and organisations, including Oxfordshire County Council, local parish councils and local politicians throughout the planning of these projects. 

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About Network Rail

We own, operate and develop Britain's railway infrastructure; that's 20,000 miles of track, 30,000 bridges, tunnels and viaducts and the thousands of signals, level crossings and stations. We run 20 of the UK's largest stations while all the others, over 2,500, are run by the country's train operating companies.

Usually, there are almost five million journeys made in the UK and over 600 freight trains run on the network. People depend on Britain's railway for their daily commute, to visit friends and loved ones and to get them home safe every day. Our role is to deliver a safe and reliable railway, so we carefully manage and deliver thousands of projects every year that form part of the multi-billion pound Railway Upgrade Plan, to grow and expand the nation's railway network to respond to the tremendous growth and demand the railway has experienced - a doubling of passenger journeys over the past 20 years.

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